Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: Strange things afoot in pre-break week

Updated: July 11, 2008, 4:59 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On tap: It's the final week of baseball's traditional "first half," even if every team has now played more than half of the 162-game schedule. Wacky things can happen in this week; teams sometimes demote younger pitchers to work in the minor leagues until after the All-Star break, some starters get called in relief over the weekend because the break will afford them a few extra days of rest, and other starters get skipped entirely to gear up for the All-Star Game. So don't get too cozy with your pitching matchups!

Quick click by section:
Game breakdowns | Hitters' matchups | Hitters in their Comfort Zone
Base stealers' matchups | Pitchers' matchups | Two-start pitchers

Note: Weather reports are based on upcoming weather forecasts (through Friday), as well as historical trends in those cities. "Poor weather" doesn't guarantee rainouts; those are merely the teams with the highest probability of one or more.

Seven games
Angels (@TEX-4, @OAK-3)Phillies (NYM-1, STL-3, ARI-3)
Athletics (SEA-4, LAA-3)Pirates (HOU-3, NYY-1, STL-3)
Brewers (COL-4, CIN-3)Rangers (LAA-4, CHW-3)
Dodgers (ATL-3, FLA-4)Rays (KC-1, @NYY-2, @CLE-4)
Mariners (@OAK-4, @KC-3)Rockies (@MIL-4, @NYM-3)
Marlins (@SD-3, @LAD-4)Royals (@TB-1, CHW-3, SEA-3)
Mets (@PHI-1, SF-3, COL-3)Twins (@BOS-3, @DET-4)
Six games, all homeSix games, all road
Blue Jays (BAL-3, NYY-3)Astros (@PIT-3, @WAS-3)
Cubs (CIN-3, SF-3)Braves (@LAD-3, @SD-3)
Nationals (ARI-3, HOU-3)Cardinals (@PHI-3, @PIT-3)
Padres (FLA-3, ATL-3)Diamondbacks (@WAS-3, @PHI-3)
Red Sox (MIN-3, BAL-3)Giants (@NYM-3, @CHC-3)
Tigers (CLE-2, MIN-4)Orioles (@TOR-3, @BOS-3)
Reds (@CHC-3, @MIL-3)
White Sox (@KC-3, @TEX-3)
Good weather (* -- weatherproof)Riskier weather
Angels (@TEX-4, @OAK-3)Cubs (CIN-3, SF-3)
Athletics (SEA-4, LAA-3)Diamondbacks (@WAS-3, @PHI-3)
Blue Jays * (BAL-3, NYY-3)Giants (@NYM-3, @CHC-3)
Braves (@LAD-3, @SD-3)Mets (@PHI-1, SF-3, COL-3)
Brewers * (COL-4, CIN-3)Nationals (ARI-3, HOU-3)
Dodgers (ATL-3, FLA-4)Phillies (NYM-1, STL-3, ARI-3)
Marlins (@SD-3, @LAD-4)Red Sox (MIN-3, BAL-3)
Padres (FLA-3, ATL-3)
Rangers (LAA-4, CHW-3)

Note: Hitter-friendly ballparks are based on recent statistical data (2005-08) comparing home/road performance, a similar method to our Park Factor page. Some personal opinion does go into making ballpark selections.

Good for hittersPoor for hitters
Astros (@PIT-3, @WAS-3) Braves (@LAD-3, @SD-3)
Cardinals (@PHI-3, @PIT-3) Marlins (@SD-3, @LAD-4)
Red Sox (MIN-3, BAL-3) Orioles (@TOR-3, @BOS-3)
White Sox (@KC-3, @TEX-3) Yankees (TB-2, @PIT-1, @TOR-3)
Games at hitter-friendly ballparks
Chase Field (ARI): No games
Citizens Bank Park (PHI): Mets, July 7; Cardinals, July 8-10; Diamondbacks, July 11-13
Coors Field (COL): No games
Great American Ball Park (CIN): No games
Rangers Ballpark (TEX): Angels, July 7-10; White Sox, July 11-13
U.S. Cellular Field (CHW): No games
Wrigley Field (CHC): Reds, July 8-10; Giants, July 11-13
Lefty-heavyRighty-heavy
Astros (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Angels (6 RHP, 1 LHP)
Athletics (3 LHP, 4 RHP)Braves (6 RHP, 0 LHP)
Cardinals (5 LHP, 1 RHP)Orioles (6 RHP, 0 LHP)
Diamondbacks (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Phillies (6 RHP, 1 LHP)
Giants (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Pirates (7 RHP, 0 LHP)
Padres (3 LHP, 3 RHP)White Sox (6 RHP, 0 LHP)
Rays (5 LHP, 2 RHP)
Twins (3 LHP, 4 RHP)
Yankees (3 LHP, 3 RHP)

Hitters in their Comfort Zone

Hitter (Team)ScheduleRecent stats (since?)
Joe Crede (CHW)@KC-3, @TEX-3(June 3) 25 G, .277 AVG, .922 OPS
Career at Kauffman Stadium: 43 G, .331 AVG, 10 HR, .989 OPS ... 2008 versus RHP: .322 AVG, 1.001 OPS
Chris Davis (TEX)LAA-4, CHW-3(June 26) 7 G, .316 AVG, 3 HR
2008 Rangers: 7 G, .316 AVG, 3 HR, .842 OPS ... 2008 Triple-A versus RHP: 82 AB, .341 AVG, 1.079 OPS
Jim Edmonds (CHC)CIN-3, SF-3(June 21) 12 G, .282 AVG, 1.206 OPS
2008 at Wrigley Field: 13 G, .333 AVG, 6 HR, 1.335 OPS ... 2008 versus RHP: .251 AVG, .801 OPS
Kosuke Fukudome (CHC)CIN-3, SF-3(June 11) 19 G, .274 AVG, .781 OPS
2008 home: 40 G, .373 AVG, 5 HR, 1.040 OPS ... 2008 versus RHP: 264 PAs, .291 AVG, .834 OPS
Jonny Gomes (TB)KC-1, @NYY-2, @CLE-4(May 20) 21 G, .176 AVG, 3 HR
Career at Yankee Stadium: 25 G, .284 AVG, 6 HR, .912 OPS ... Career versus LHP: .278 AVG, .905 OPS
Conor Jackson (ARI)@WAS-3, @PHI-3(June 22) 11 G, .368 AVG, .903 OPS
Career at Citizens Bank Park: 6 G, .364 AVG, 2 HR, 1.164 OPS ... 2008 versus LHP: .363 AVG, 1.020 OPS
Casey Kotchman (LAA)@TEX-4, @OAK-3(June 15) 16 G, .250 AVG, 10 RBIs
Career at Rangers Ballpark: 16 G, .362 AVG, 3 HR, 1.057 OPS ... 2008 road: 41 G, .309 AVG, .844 OPS
Yadier Molina (STL)@PHI-3, @PIT-3(May 28) 24 G, .345 AVG, .832 OPS
Career at PNC Park: 24 G, .313 AVG, .776 OPS ... 2008 versus LHP: 84 PAs, .389 AVG, 1.060 OPS
Mark Reynolds (ARI)@WAS-3, @PHI-3(May 28) 33 G, .309 AVG, 9 HR
Career at Citizens Bank Park: 3 G, 4-for-11, 1 HR ... 2008 versus LHP: 103 PAs, .276 AVG, .930 OPS
Luke Scott (BAL)@TOR-3, @BOS-3(May 24) 35 G, .288 AVG, 10 HR
June 6-8, 2008 at Rogers Centre: 3 G, 4-for-12, 2 HR, 1.302 OPS ... 2008 versus RHP: .281 AVG, .894 OPS
All hitters statistics are through the games of Thursday, July 3.

Note: Matchups are determined by examining both an opponent's catcher and pitching staff. Obviously, teams like the Mets (catcher: Brian Schneider) and Tigers (Ivan Rodriguez) rate as tough teams to run on, while teams like the Braves (Brian McCann) and White Sox (A.J. Pierzynski) rate as easy teams to run on.

Good for stolen basesTop speedsters
Blue Jays (BAL-3, NYY-3)Alex Rios (16 SB), Marco Scutaro (5), Scott Rolen (4)
Diamondbacks (@WAS-3, @PHI-3)Conor Jackson (6), Mark Reynolds (5)
Dodgers (ATL-3, FLA-4)Matt Kemp (17), Russell Martin (8)
Rangers (LAA-4, CHW-3)Ian Kinsler (23), David Murphy (5), Michael Young (5)
Poor for stolen basesTop speedsters
Indians (@DET-2, TB-4)Grady Sizemore (19), Jamey Carroll (6)
Mariners (@OAK-4, @KC-3)Ichiro Suzuki (33), Willie Bloomquist (8)
Pirates (HOU-3, NYY-1, STL-3)Nate McLouth (9), Jason Bay (6)
Rockies (@MIL-4, @NYM-3)Willy Taveras (38), Matt Holliday (10)
All basestealers statistics are through the games of Thursday, July 3.

Note: As with the hitter-friendly ballparks, pitcher-friendly ballparks are based mostly on 2005-08 data, with some personal opinion involved.

Good for pitchersPoor for pitchers
Athletics (SEA-4, LAA-3) Blue Jays (BAL-3, NYY-3)
Braves (@LAD-3, @SD-3) Giants (@NYM-3, @CHC-3)
Cubs (CIN-3, SF-3) Reds (@CHC-3, @MIL-3)
Yankees (TB-2, @PIT-1, @TOR-3) Twins (@BOS-3, @DET-4)
Games at pitcher-friendly ballparks
Busch Stadium (STL): No games
Dolphin Stadium (FLA): No games
McAfee Coliseum (OAK): Mariners, July 7-10; Angels, July 11-13
Metrodome (MIN): No games
Petco Park (SD): Marlins, July 7-9; Braves, July 11-13
Safeco Field (SEA): No games
Shea Stadium (NYM): Giants, July 8-10; Rockies, July 11-13

Two-start notes: Aaron Harang, whose Saturday start was pushed to Tuesday because of forearm tightness, makes the perfect cutoff point in mixed leagues for Week 15. I'll give him my OK, but the pitchers after him look too risky. … The Tigers could push Eddie Bonine back in their rotation, giving Justin Verlander two starts. He'd be a top-five option -- probably No. 4 overall -- in that event. … A hamstring injury threatens Eric Hurley's status for the week. I'm penciling him in for Tuesday, making him a two-start option, but his health is what puts him in the clear "no thank you" class. … The Astros could skip Runelvys Hernandez's Sunday start, giving Roy Oswalt a two-start week instead. Oswalt would rank right around Harang's spot if that happens. … There's an outside chance the Giants will push Kevin Correia back in their rotation to give Tim Lincecum two starts. The matchups aren't great, though, so he'd likely rank around sixth if so.

Two-start pitchers -- Tristan's rankings
Pitcher (Team)First start (Opponent)Second start (Opponent)
1. C.C. Sabathia (CLE)July 8, @DET (Bonine)July 13, TB (Kazmir)
Past 5 GS: 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.83 WHIP ... Career at Comerica Park: 11 GS, 7-2, 3.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
2. Cole Hamels (PHI)July 8, STL (Pineiro)July 13, ARI (Webb)
Past 5 GS: 3-1, 2.87 ERA, 0.90 WHIP ... Career home: 32 GS, 18-9, 3.30 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
3. Scott Kazmir (TB)July 8, KC (Davies)July 13, @CLE (Sabathia)
Past 5 GS: 1-2, 4.67 ERA, 1.48 WHIP ... Career at Jacobs Field: 2 GS, 1-0, 0.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
4. Justin Duchscherer (OAK)July 8, SEA (Silva)July 13, LAA (Saunders)
Past 5 GS: 4-1,1.43 ERA, 0.77 WHIP ... 2008 home: 7 GS, 6-1, 1.46 ERA, 0.75 WHIP
5. Ervin Santana (LAA)July 7, @TEX (Mendoza)July 12, @OAK (Eveland)
Past 5 GS: 1-1, 3.94 ERA, 1.38 WHIP ... Career at McAfee Coliseum: 6 G, 5 GS, 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 1.03 WHIP
6. Brandon Webb (ARI)July 8, @WAS (Od. Perez)July 13, @PHI (Hamels)
Past 5 GS: 2-2, 5.24 ERA, 1.43 WHIP ... 2007-08 road: 28 GS, 16-8, 2.82 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
7. Manny Parra (MIL)July 8, COL (Redman)July 13, CIN (Harang)
Past 5 GS: 4-0, 2.37 ERA, 1.38 WHIP ... 2008 home: 9 GS, 5-0, 2.75 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
8. Ryan Dempster (CHC)July 8, CIN (Harang)July 13, SF (Correia)
Past 5 GS: 2-1, 4.15 ERA, 1.32 WHIP ... 2008 home: 10 GS, 9-0, 2.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
9. Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS)July 7, MIN (S. Baker)July 13, BAL (D. Cabrera)
Past 5 GS: 2-1, 5.66 ERA, 1.79 WHIP ... Career versus MIN: 2 GS, 2-0, 2.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
10. Joe Saunders (LAA)July 8, @TEX (Hurley)July 13, @OAK (Duchscherer)
Past 5 GS: 3-2, 4.15 ERA, 1.35 WHIP ... 2008 road: 8 GS, 6-2, 2.05 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
11. Matt Garza (TB)July 7, KC (Meche)July 12, @CLE (Sowers)
Past 5 GS: 3-2, 2.18 ERA, 0.82 WHIP ... July 29, 2007 at Jacobs Field: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 11 K's
12. Chad Billingsley (LAD)July 8, ATL (Jurrjens)July 13, FLA (Campillo)
Past 5 GS: 4-1, 2.16 ERA, 1.17 WHIP ... Career versus FLA: 5 G, 4 GS, 3-0, 1.73 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
13. Dustin McGowan (TOR)July 8, BAL (D. Cabrera)July 13, NYY (Ponson)
Past 5 GS: 2-3, 4.60 ERA, 1.24 WHIP ... 2007-08 home: 20 GS, 12-5, 2.88 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
14. Ricky Nolasco (FLA)July 7, @SD (Banks)July 12, @LAD (Kuroda)
Past 5 GS: 4-0, 1.96 ERA, 0.82 WHIP ... 2008 road: 10 GS, 5-2, 4.37 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
15. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD)July 7, ATL (Campillo)July 12, FLA (Nolasco)
Past 5 GS: 2-3, 4.28 ERA, 1.39 WHIP ... 2008 home: 6 GS, 2-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
16. Aaron Harang (CIN)July 8, @CHC (Dempster)July 13, @MIL (Parra)
Past 5 GS: 1-2, 6.30 ERA, 1.53 WHIP ... Career at Wrigley Field: 9 GS, 4-1, 4.95 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
17. Jose Contreras (CHW)July 8, @KC (Davies)July 13, @TEX (Hurley)
Past 5 GS: 1-3, 7.71 ERA, 1.93 WHIP ... Career at Kauffman Stadium: 8 GS, 5-2, 3.04 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
18. Andrew Miller (FLA)July 8, @SD (Wolf)July 13, @LAD (Billingsley)
Past 5 GS: 1-2, 3.56 ERA, 1.25 WHIP ... 2008 road: 8 GS, 3-3, 5.05 ERA, 1.66 WHIP
19. Jorge Campillo (ATL)July 7, @LAD (Kuroda)July 13, @SD (Banks)
Past 5 GS: 1-3, 4.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP ... 2008 road: 10 G, 2 GS, 1-1, 1.00 ERA, 0.74 WHIP
20. Scott Baker (MIN)July 7, @BOS (Matsuzaka)July 12, @DET (Robertson)
Past 5 GS: 3-2, 3.19 ERA, 1.32 WHIP ... Career at Comerica Park: 3 GS, 1-1, 2.45 ERA, 0.77 WHIP
21. Joel Pineiro (STL)July 8, @PHI (Hamels)July 13, @PIT (Snell)
Past 5 GS: 0-1, 4.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP ... Career at PNC Park: 2 GS, 2-0, 1.20 ERA, 0.67 WHIP
22. Mike Pelfrey (NYM)July 8, SF (Correia)July 13, @CHC (Dempster)
Past 5 GS: 4-0, 3.41 ERA, 1.42 WHIP ... 2008 total: 15 GS, 5-6, 4.47 ERA, 1.65 WHIP
23. Gil Meche (KC)July 7, @TB (Garza)July 12, SEA (Washburn)
Past 5 GS: 3-1, 2.81 ERA, 1.06 WHIP ... Career at Tropicana Field: 4 GS, 0-2, 3.47 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
24. Josh Banks (SD)July 7, FLA (Nolasco)July 13, ATL (Campillo)
Past 5 GS: 0-3, 4.73 ERA, 1.24 WHIP ... 2008 home: 4 G, 2 GS, 1-1, 2.33 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
25. Dana Eveland (OAK)July 7, SEA (Washburn)July 12, @KC (Meche)
Past 5 GS: 2-1, 2.53 ERA, 1.28 WHIP ... April 25, 2008 versus SEA: Win, 5 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER
26. Jarrod Washburn (SEA)July 7, @OAK (Eveland)July 12, LAA (E. Santana)
Past 5 GS: 2-0, 2.30 ERA, 1.47 WHIP ... 2000-07 at McAfee Coliseum: 14 GS, 4-5, 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
27. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL)July 7, @MIL (McClung)July 12, @NYM (P. Martinez)
Past 5 GS: 2-2, 2.37 ERA, 1.25 WHIP ... Career road: 16 GS, 1-7, 5.95 ERA, 1.68 WHIP
No thank you (in alphabetical order): Nick Blackburn (MIN), July 8, @BOS (Lester), July 13, @DET (Bonine); Eddie Bonine (DET), July 8, CLE (Sabathia), July 13, MIN (Blackburn); Daniel Cabrera (BAL), July 8, @TOR (McGowan), July 13, @BOS (Matsuzaka); Kevin Correia (SF), July 8, @NYM (Pelfrey), July 13, @CHC (Dempster); Kyle Davies (KC), July 8, CHW (Contreras), July 13, SEA (Silva); Phil Dumatrait (PIT), July 7, HOU (R. Hernandez), July 12, STL (Wellemeyer); Adam Eaton (PHI), July 7, NYM (P. Martinez), July 12, ARI (Petit); Runelvys Hernandez (HOU), July 7, @PIT (Dumatrait), July 13, @WAS (Od. Perez); Eric Hurley (TEX), July 8, LAA (Saunders), July 13, CHW (Contreras); Pedro Martinez (NYM), July 7, @PHI (Eaton), July 12, COL (U. Jimenez); Seth McClung (MIL), July 7, COL (U. Jimenez), July 12, CIN (Volquez); Luis Mendoza (TEX), July 7, LAA (E. Santana), July 12, CHW (Danks); Odalis Perez (WAS), July 8, ARI (Webb), July 13, HOU (R. Hernandez); Sidney Ponson (NYY), July 8, TB (Kazmir), July 13, @TOR (McGowan); Mark Redman (COL), July 8, @MIL (Parra), July 13, @NYM (Pelfrey); Carlos Silva (SEA), July 8, @OAK (Duchscherer), July 13, @KC (Davies); Ian Snell (PIT), July 8, HOU (Oswalt), July 13, STL (Pineiro).

One-start pitchers -- value plays (owned in under 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
Pitcher (Team)Start (Opponent)
Dave Bush (MIL)July 10, COL (De La Rosa)
Past 5 GS: 2-3, 4.20 ERA, 1.23 WHIP ... 2008 home: 7 GS, 3-2, 3.18 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
Doug Davis (ARI)July 10, @WAS (Bergmann)
Past 5 GS: 1-1, 3.68 ERA, 1.47 WHIP ... Career versus WAS: 7 GS, 1-4, 3.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP
Jeremy Guthrie (BAL)July 10, @TOR (Halladay)
Past 5 GS: 2-1, 4.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP ... Career at Rogers Centre: 2 GS, 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.60 WHIP
Kyle Kendrick (PHI)July 11, ARI (Ra. Johnson)
Past 5 GS: 3-1, 3.68 ERA, 1.36 WHIP ... Career home: 18 GS, 10-3, 4.21 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Jamie Moyer (PHI)July 10, STL (Looper)
Past 5 GS: 1-3, 2.93 ERA, 1.21 WHIP ... 2002-07 versus STL: 4 GS, 2-0, 0.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Jo-Jo Reyes (ATL)July 11, @SD (Peavy)
Past 5 GS: 1-3, 3.41 ERA, 1.29 WHIP ... 2008 road: 5 GS, 1-3, 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP
Kenny Rogers (DET)July 10, MIN (Slowey)
Past 5 GS: 2-2, 3.44 ERA, 1.21 WHIP ... 2001-08 versus MIN: 13 GS, 6-3, 2.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
Kevin Slowey (MIN)July 10, @DET (Rogers)
Past 5 GS: 3-1, 3.09 ERA, 1.00 WHIP ... Career at Comerica Park: 2 GS, 2-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
Andy Sonnanstine (TB)July 10, @CLE (Laffey)
Past 5 GS: 3-0, 3.62 ERA, 1.32 WHIP ... 2008 road: 8 GS, 5-1, 3.88 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
Eric Stults (LAD)July 11, FLA (Hendrickson)
Past 3 GS: 2-1, 2.21 ERA, 0.98 WHIP ... 2008 Triple-A: 14 GS, 5-6, 3.59 ERA, 1.32 WHIP

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.